During National Catholic Schools Week, Let’s Stop Bickering Over the Term ‘Bullying’, and Make Positive Action A Priority

Frank A. DiLallo

National Catholic Schools Week has been an annual celebration of Catholic education in the U. S. for the last 45 years. The theme for Catholic Schools Week from January 27 to February 2, 2019 is; “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”

There are few greater threats to all schools than bullying. There is absolutely no school immune to peer mistreatment and the insidious impact it has on learning and the overall school climate. In every way, peer mistreatment is the antithesis to learning, serving, leading and succeeding.

The good news is that a myriad of successful strategies is available for positive and hopeful response. We can literally turn this problem into an opportunity for FORMATION and CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!

With formation and character development in mind, it is imperative that we put things into perspective. The term “Bullying” is highly ambiguous and consensus about how, exactly, to characterize bullying behavior is extremely elusive. Every person who learns of an incident wears a subjective lens based on their own previous experiences (personal and professional). Often, administrators, teachers, and parents get hung up on the conundrum; “Is this or is this not bullying?”, at the expense of a quick intervention and resolution. As research proves that asking this question, “Is this really bullying?”, is bound to cause a great deal of consternation and confusion between school and home – with plenty of room for disagreements I feel the term “peer mistreatment” is more accurate, and reduces confusion and the likelihood that adults will label, or make assumptions about a child’s character or intentions.

Most likely, trying to get to the bottom of whether a situation is bullying or is not bullying is well intended, however the energy expended to make such a determination is exhausting and can be highly erroneous. By viewing all behaviors as “bullying” we can run amuck; the risk of unwittingly under responding to a volatile situation, such as physical assault, or over responding to a less serious situation, such as eye rolling.

We should by all means take every incident seriously, however after investigating, our efforts should focus on tailoring a unique response based on the developmental age of the child(ren) and the severity of the situation. We are not responding to “bullying”, we are sensitively responding to misguided actions. Please remember; “This child made a mistake, he/she is not a mistake.”

The #1 top priority for adults at school and parents at home should always include two key questions:

  1. Did the action(s) cause or does the action(s) have the potential to cause physical or emotional harm?
  2. Did the action(s) interfere with or does the action(s) have the potential to interfere with student learning?

It is important for us to create a paradigm shift from problem-centric bullying language, to more effectively align our responses with positive solution-centric approaches that embody compassion. Being Solution-Centric means that we are proactively engaging students in opportunities to learn and grow. Proactive means promoting skill-based learning, whereas anti as in “Anti-bullying” is reactive. It is much more effective and efficient to promote the behaviors we do want in students rather than efforts to eliminate or move student’s away from behaviors we don’t want.

There are many evidenced-based frameworks and programs to promote Pro-Social Skills. Religious and Public Schools adopt approaches that work for their environments. For Catholic and other Christian schools, a Christ-centered focus on the Gospel Guidelines is essential. For public schools Character-Based Education and Social Emotional Learning are key. In both cases, an effective anonymous reporting system such as STOPit should be an integral part of both Christian and public schools to effectively mitigate and respond to students in distress.

With this “new view” in mind; ALL incidents of peer mistreatment are taken seriously and every effort is made to guide misguided actions toward meaningful opportunities to learn, serve, lead and succeed, in educating and promoting pro-social skills for the formation of the whole child.

Helpful Resources
STOPit Solutions
Peace Be With You Christ Centered Bullying Redirect
National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)
Social Emotional Learning
Character Education

Guest author, Frank A. DiLallo, is a Professional Counselor and certified Prevention Specialist who works in the Office of Child & Youth Protection for the Diocese of Toledo. He frequently consults with principals, teachers and parents for preK-12 in the Diocese, as well as Catholic schools across the country.

DiLallo is also the author of several books and articles that address bullying and its impact, including: Peace Be With You Christ-Centered Bullying Solution, Peace2U Three Phase Bullying Solution, Peace Be With You Christ Centered Bullying Redirect, Bullying Redirect: New Strategies for Christian Educators and Bullying Redirect: New Strategies for Christian Parents.

Learn more about how the STOPit anonymous reporting solution is helping Catholic Schools build safer, more supportive school communities.

New Year Brings New Resolve for Students Ready to Report Bullying

School administrators, have you seen a few more reports from your students right after the holidays? There is a reason associated with that and here we will share our findings and research.

Unlike what schools typically see a few weeks after opening day — when bullies zero in on their targets and start getting aggressive — many of reports can be taken as a positive sign. Research show that what you’ll see shortly after winter break are students getting long-festering troubles off their chests so they can enjoy a peaceful, productive second half of the school year.

Why? As it turns out, there’s no place like home for the holidays.

“When the students go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, they have more chances to speak with their older siblings or other trusted family members,” STOPit Solutions Chief Revenue Officer Neil Hooper said. “Over these breaks, students spend extended time with their family, and for college students in particular, it may have been a number of weeks since they last visited home. They often get the guidance they need over these breaks to understand that what they have been experiencing is not acceptable and they need to report what they have seen.”

Emboldened by these discussions, the students take steps necessary to make things right – talking to teachers, acting as upstanders and yes, anonymously reporting issues. According to Hooper, a review of data submitted to STOPit’s 3,000 school customers shows a brief but very valuable statistical increase in reports in the weeks following the long winter break vs. the average for the year.

“We certainly know that there is stress around the holidays, and that not everyone’s holiday break is positive,” Hooper said. “This family stress can be a source of reporting. However, the largest impact of a holiday break is positive.”

STOPit helps ensure that the act of reporting does not add to students’ stress. The mobile app was designed to feel as familiar as possible to today’s generation of digital natives, functioning and appearing just like a text message. Users can count on the knowledge that their conversations will remain completely anonymous, until or unless they choose to identify themselves. For schools that don’t have the staff available to respond to STOPit reports on holidays and other off hours, STOPit also offers a 24/7 monitoring service.

Those assigned to administer STOPit in their schools can return from the break prepared to take advantage of the windfall of information and act to address issues that were kept out of their view.

“School administrators should not only be ready for their return, but this opportunity should be cherished,” Hooper said. “Encouraging students to open up and let their parents be parents, and encouraging students to reflect with their family is an important process. Let’s not forget that helping students is not just for the schools, but for the parents as well.”

This post-holiday surge is just one example of the important, nationwide trends being gleaned through data collected by STOPit schools across the country. In addition to these universal insights, individual schools can also benefit from analytics particular to their own, unique community. Using the STOPit Admin tool, schools can easily identify trends impacting their own students, allowing counselors and educators to prepare and respond to potential opportunities and challenges in the way best suited for their special school community. And with a suite of carefully curated social-emotional learning content now available through the mobile app, schools can easily make positive content available to their students to help them build resiliency on topics most impactful to that student community.

Contact us to learn more about how educators are using the insights from STOPit analytics to provide better protection for their students.

How to Discuss Digital Citizenship with Your Child: Their Rights, Responsibilities and How to Stay Safe in the Cybersphere

By Melissa Straub
Founder, High Impact Youth Training Solutions
and Without A Trace Investigations

In my years consulting with schools and investigating social media, cybercrime and cyberbullying issues, I’ve become all too familiar with the endless number of virtual landmines that our kids encounter every day on their cell phones and computers.

Thankfully, the challenge can be managed. But it requires a healthy dose of attention and accountability by the adult role models in our kids’ lives, both in the classroom and at home.

The online risks our kids face today begin in the earliest school years and evolve with each passing grade.

As we enter the holiday gift-giving season, many parents and guardians are likely considering the pros and cons of giving the children in their care and more access to the cybersphere. Below, I share a few important considerations about youth social-emotional development relative to internet use and social media, and some proven tips for effectively communicating both the risks of engaging online and ways we can work with our kids to keep them safer in the digital neighborhood.

The Early Years (K-5)

Kids are learning to use computers and now being exposed to digital content in the classroom as early as kindergarten. A digital shadow begins taking shape the very first time they sign into an account and begin to explore the Internet. Children in this age group should be introduced to the basic concepts of digital citizenship, Internet Safety, and what to do should they be contacted by a stranger or exposed to something that makes them uncomfortable.

Middle School

Most of the worst mistakes related to social networking are made in grades 6, 7, and 8. During this time of adolescence, young people are having fun and embracing the gift of technology, but all to frequently don’t make the best decisions in real life. These decisions often follow them into the online world. The mission at this level should be to educate kids on the issues around the permanence of information — things they share online don’t necessarily disappear when you click the delete button — and to encourage them to be the same person online as they are in the real world. Another key is teaching them about empathy and their ability to make a positive change in others’ lives by reporting cyberbullying and bullying in general.

High School

As students get ready to pursue jobs, apply to colleges, or join the military, it is an important time for parents and educators to continue pressing the importance of responsible social networking. An emphasis should be placed on making teens aware that careless social media behavior can carry serious consequences — one picture, video or comment can hurt their reputations and haunt them for years to come. Continue to talk to them about being the change their peers need and to be respectful of others online.

Tips for Teachers and Counselors

Regardless of the age, there are steps schools can take right now to ensure their students’ safety and happiness. For starters, counselors and teachers should talk about the issues in a forthright way and provide them the tools that truly empower them to “say something if they see something” — especially when it comes to their mental health. Schools should also dedicate as many resources as they can toward effectively training school personnel to identify signs of trouble among their students. In addition, counselors and educators can:

  • Teach students self-regulation, resilience and etiquette in their online communications.
  • Create lesson plans on social media usage, character education and diversity. Start early.
  • Make students aware that what they’re seeing is tailored, and often manipulated, by the person posting it – especially with celebrity feeds — so you only see what they want you to.
  • Realize social media is the platform, not the problem; the problem is in how we use it. Rather than focusing on the very latest app, recognize that, regardless of the medium, young people are facing challenges we know about and are well versed in: social pressures, making good choices, and creating healthy boundaries.

Tips for Parents

As early as pre-K, parents should encourage their children to report problems they see online and in real life while strengthening their relationships with school officials. Kids struggle with the thought of “ratting” someone out and don’t want to get caught up in others’ problems by stepping forward to report them. They need to feel assured that they can share information without repercussions and that the person who is taking those reports is listening and cares.

Parents can and should:

  • Develop a plan around social media regulation – i.e., setting time limits, putting it down at dinner table, turn-off time before bed.
  • Work with kids on developing a healthy, balanced view of what social media is and what can happen relatable to the real world.
  • Share your own stories of times when social media made you feel left out and how you coped with it. Also, talk about other kids who may feel hurt for not being included and teach your kids to understand their feelings.
  • Model the social media usage and behavior that you expect of your kids.

And a final tip for both parents and educators: Let kids know there’s no better day than today to clean up their social media accounts and commit to making better decisions about what they post from now on.

Melissa Straub is the founder of High Impact Youth Training Solutions, LLC, a specialized consulting company that provides educational training and guidance on issues directly affecting our youth, schools, and communities. She is also the founder and lead investigator for Without A Trace Investigations, LLC, which specializes in social media-related investigations, including cybercrime, cyberbullying, sexting, and other social networking issues.

To speak with an expert on anonymous reporting solutions to help youth report instances of cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and other abusive and potentially harmful behaviors online or IRL (In Real Life), call STOPit Solutions today.

10 Reasons Why You Should Support WeTip, the Crime Stopping, Anonymous Tip Service This Holiday Season

The holiday season is an emotional time for many of us, with to-do lists a mile long, and a cascade of different calls to action: Have a happy holiday! Give them them the gifts they’ll cherish! Make memories to last a lifetime! Give generously and help share peace and goodwill for all!

Yes, to all of these. As far as that last encouragement, when you’re considering your list of worthwhile causes to celebrate with a special gift, please keep WeTip at the top of that list.

WeTip: 47 Years of Unrivaled Service to Help Us Create Safer Communities

WeTip is one of the best resources in America for regular citizens to prevent and report crime. It is a toll-free, nationwide, 24/7/365 anonymous hotline and website committed to providing the most effective crime alerting system in the nation.

Once the caller has been assured anonymity, the operator takes them through a series of up to 65 questions, developed through the aid of law enforcement to elicit as much information as possible. Oftentimes the caller has more helpful information than they even realize. WeTip has become an essential service for crime-stoppers and a vital resource for law enforcement.

Founded in 1972 by a retired San Bernadino county sheriff who envisioned a better way for everyday citizens to report crimes, he understood the value of a service that was truly anonymous. Now 46 years later, boasting over 1,336,138 crimes reported, 16,391 arrests, a phenomenal 8,396 convictions, and NOT ONE informant ever revealed – the success and longevity of WeTip is proof that when good people are brave, motivated, and get involved, they can make a difference!

While completely independent from the police, WeTip has become an invaluable source of intelligence and information to local, regional, national, and even international law enforcement. They relay all tip information to every appropriate agency that may be able to help with a crime; whether that be the local area precinct detectives, Department of Child and Family Services, housing authorities, school administrators, corporations, animal protection, forest service, private agencies, or whatever the individual situation calls for. They don’t rest until the situation is being investigated from every angle, and taken seriously. This tremendously successful program has dramatically impacted unsolved crimes, and has significantly reduced crime incidents in communities and schools nationwide.

Here are 10 Reasons Why Your Donation to WeTip Matters.

    1. WeTip is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has relied on donations from people like you to keep their hotline running for over 46 years–and the results are astounding. More than ONE MILLION crimes have been reported resulting in nearly 9,000 convictions — that’s how citizen-supported, citizen action works.But while WeTip is a nationwide service, they receive no federal funding. You can donate with confidence knowing that your funds are not being handled by a middle man, but all support goes directly into this secure, established resource that is protecting communities, children, the elderly, animals, and the environment.
    2. In 2007, WeTip updated its service to include taking anonymous tips online in addition to the telephone hotline. The online method of reporting has been extremely effective, but is an additional expense of equipment and utilities. Your donation will help cover those bills.
    3. Your donation directly impacts America’s youth: WeTip is combating bullying and terror on the front lines in our schools. This year alone, WeTip has received over 90 reports of bullying, and aided in the prevention of school attacks. When school districts partner with WeTip, it does more than just empower individuals with information to speak up – it is also a powerful deterrent. It causes someone to think twice before engaging in unacceptable conduct. In fact, schools that use WeTip find that the service discourages harmful or inappropriate behavior from happening in the first place. The deterrent factor resulted in a decrease in crime in one of WeTip’s school districts by an astounding 90%.
Tips Received To Date
  1. Animals cannot speak up when they are being neglected, hoarded or abused, so thankfully WeTip is ready to answer the call when a good samaritan blows the whistle on a situation where animals are being harmed. WeTip works closely with the appropriate rescue organizations to get the animals to safety and hold the abusers accountable. Animal lovers nationwide understand how important this work is, and every donation helps save these innocent lives.
  2. One of the areas that WeTip has been the most successful is the war on drugs. Approximately 75% of the tips the hotline receives are drug related. Over $340,000,000 in drugs and $6,875,000 in cash has been seized because of WeTip information, and they have intervened in countless threatening and dangerous situations.The numbers show the impressive impact the WeTip solution is having on breaking down the dangerous code of silence. The dramatic increases in the number of tips received each year demonstrates the change in culture and attitudes about reporting unsafe behaviors and situations. Donating to this important work directly affects communities in need, and innocent children who are exposed to this culture.
  3. The best technology for the best results: WeTip leverages mission-critical tech tools to deliver results and stay effective. WeTip’s success as a national resource depends on the ability to be available 24/7 – 356 days a year and to deliver on its promise of anonymity when citizens do report crime tips. For 47 years, WeTip has devoted a significant share of its resources to its tipline and reporting systems.In 2019, the number one operational need is an upgrade to their digital infrastructure.This upgrade will insure that individuals and communities continue to have access to this invaluable service while delivering on WeTip’s promise of anonymity for tipsters.

    ANONYMOUS: And this is important — WeTip is truly anonymous, not just “confidential”. What’s the difference? Confidential means that someone knows your name and promises not to tell, until they are subpoenaed. Anonymous means that nobody knows who you are and there is absolutely no way to find out. WeTip has no taping, tracing or caller ID. They have no way of knowing who the caller is.

  4. There are rewards for getting involved and doing the right thing. Every tipster is offered the opportunity to receive a reward up to $1000 (with some higher rewards offered in specific instances) for information leading to arrest and conviction. These rewards are paid through WeTip’s anonymous and unique reward payment system.This is the only program of its kind in the nation, and honors the fact that though many people will choose to remain anonymous for their own reasons, when people can and do come forward, they deserve recognition for taking positive action. In fact, the rewards program is extremely effective in encouraging otherwise hesitant folks to make that call, and the rewards — more than $1M and counting — are only made possible by donated funds.
  5. WeTip has specialized Native American Reservations Services, offering a safe, highly valued opportunity for members of these communities to protect themselves and others from devastating crime and victimization. Services include: education regarding Tribal security, school security, community health, and the dangers involved in drug and gang activity; domestic violence; drug endangered children; threats and actual violence; property destruction; elder abuse; truancy and underage drinking. WeTip is also utilized by visitors to reservation casinos who have information about illegal activities like fraud, robbery, burglary, malicious mischief, threats, violence and drug activity. Your donation will help WeTip provide brochures, stickers, flyers, posters, magnets and parking lot signs, all designed to maintain a visual presence of the hotline phone number.
  6. Knowledge is power. WeTip is only helping if people know to use it. Your donation to WeTip not only helps to keep their day-to-day operations possible, but it also helps with the communications, public relations and marketing efforts — all necessary to increase public awareness of the hotline and ensure that everyone who needs WeTip knows about WeTIp, and how to take safe, positive action against criminals and other threats to health and wellbeing.
  7. A donation to WeTip is a gift that keeps on giving all year round, especially if your gift is in memory of someone special.During this holiday season, often times those feelings of peace and goodwill are lost among the pressures of buying material presents.

This year, consider a gift that is guaranteed to make a difference now and into the future. And if you have a loved on that has been affected or lost because of unsolved crime and violence, a gift in their honor is a lasting tribute to their memory and a hopeful action taken in their name for a better future.

Please join us today and help us create safer communities across the US.

You can help and make a difference by donating, and by spreading awareness about this valuable service to friends and family. One call can make a difference and may save a life, solve a cold case, or prevent a crime from happening in the first place.

We live in an era where we no longer have the luxury of looking the other way, or expecting someone else to be responsible and do the right thing, so “If you see something, say something” by calling WeTip’s Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME.

WeTip has been making a difference for 46 years, and with your help, will continue to grow and serve even more communities.

Make your donation online. For more information about the impact of citizen action through WeTip, visit the website.

Sharlee Jeter Explores How People Flourish Under Extraordinary Circumstances In Her New Book The Stuff and Through The Turn 2 Foundation

They called him names like “Captain Clutch” and “Mr. November.” Throughout an 18-year career with the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter had a legendary ability to persevere in high-pressure situations.

The trait apparently runs in the family. Jeter’s younger sister, Sharlee, shutout Hodgkin’s lymphoma while simultaneously balancing coursework as a college student in 2001. Her poise in facing this life-threatening battle inspired even the clutch-hitting shortstop. Now cancer-free, Sharlee is speaking out for the first time about her struggle and sharing the stories of others who managed to flourish in the face of extraordinary challenges in a new book called The Stuff.

Co-written with her friend Dr. Sampson Davis, a physician who’s seen it all while treating thousands of patients in the emergency room, the book profiles men and women who have what they call “the stuff” – an ability to surmount daunting obstacles and then thrive from the experience. In The Stuff, Davis and Jeter highlight 11 core elements that allow individuals not only to survive, but to flourish in the face of extraordinarily challenging circumstances. It’s an investigation in courage and resiliency, and shines a bright light on an ethos that surrounds her each day as president of the Turn 2 Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyle choices among youth.

“In the course of my life and work with the Turn 2 Foundation, I have encountered remarkable people whose ability to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances has inspired me,” she said. “We wrote The Stuff as a way to share their incredible stories, document our search for more real-life superheroes, and uncover the special qualities that drive individuals to do extraordinary things. My hope is to empower young people to dig deep and believe they can achieve anything.”

Launched in 1996, Derek’s rookie year, Turn 2 supports programs and activities that steer young people away from drugs and alcohol and toward positive behaviors. It’s a mission that lines up well with STOPit’s emphasis as a tool that empowers kids to take a stand against bullying and abusive behaviors so they can help create safer school communities. Sharlee serves as a member of STOPit’s Board of Directors.

“Derek and I talk to about this a lot; kids these days deal with a lot of pressures,” she said. “When we were growing up, you would race home and hope the bullies didn’t catch you, or maybe you didn’t want to go to school the next day to face them. But now the bullies can follow you right into your home through your phone and social media.”

Jeter’s Leaders

Turn 2’s signature initiative is Jeter’s Leaders, a leadership development program that provides young people with unique opportunities to learn more about themselves and their communities. Participants are expected to model positive behavior and deliver a message to their peers focused on staying in school, rejecting substance abuse and serving their communities.

The process for becoming a Leader is highly competitive. Turn 2 selects about 20 youths each year from a pool of hundreds of applicants living in the New York metro area or West Michigan, where Derek and Sharlee were raised. Applicants must maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher, furnish letters of recommendation and complete an essay on leadership before submitting to multiple rounds of interviews.

“We’re continuing to send them off to school and teaching them at a young age to give back, be a role model and to be kind,” Sharlee said. “We try to provide kids with mentors who believe in them and support them; positive role models to teach them skills so they are in a position to do the right thing. These role models also give our kids opportunities — access to career days, paid internship opportunities, and college tours.”

So far, the Leaders are seeing a 100% high school graduation rate and they are earning acceptances in excellent colleges. And thanks to the work of the Turn 2 Foundation and its partners, Jeter’s Leaders are eligible for scholarship opportunities to help make it possible for more students to reach their goals for a college education.

“In 21 years of the program, we’ve had 20 graduating classes of young people who are out there striving to stay positive and succeed. They’re using what they learned as Jeter’s Leaders, and are working to flip the negative narratives, including those that come through social media. By serving as leaders and remaining true to their positive values, these students are able to make a profound difference in their communities.”

And each morning when she wakes up, Sharlee puts her feet on the floor knowing that the mission of Turn 2 and her work on The Stuffis having an impact, “Our Jeter’s Leaders are incredibly smart kids,” she said. “If you ever meet them, you start to feel better about where society is headed these days.”

Learn More. Do More.

To learn more about how you can support the Turn 2 Foundation, visit www.turn2foundation.org.

More information on The Stuff can be found at https://thestuffmovement.com/.

The Pain Surrounding Cyberbullying and Why NJ Is Leading The Country By Addressing Student Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB)

“They all just kept saying such mean things about me…I don’t feel like getting out of bed anymore…I don’t know what else to do to make the pain go away.”

As a Licensed Professional Counselor with a practice focused on working with children, adolescents, and their parents, I have no shortage of stories about how cyberbullying impacts the lives of my clients. In my practice, 80% of the youth I work with have disclosed being taunted, teased, or mocked through social media apps like YouTube, Instagram, and SnapChat at least once, with more than 50% sharing repeated instances of cyberbullying. Even when children are not the victims of cyberbullying themselves, bearing witness to their peers attacking one another in semi-anonymous platforms online changes the way children live their lives. Some of my clients avoid engaging in activities that they enjoy for fear of being mocked online, while many others find themselves being swept up in the cyber-storm of making fun of someone online in order to be part of the crowd. Unfortunately, bullying has always been part of growing up, but the nature of bullying has changed – and so must the way adults address it. Consequences to deter bullying might help, but by and large the underlying causes of bullying behavior, as well as the aftermath for victims, remain linked to mental health, an issue that is silently eating at today’s youth.

How is Cyberbullying Different?

Cyberbullying is not your parents’ bullying, literally. Before the days of cell phones, bullying took place primarily in the school yard, with teases and taunts being the primary weapons of choice. Many adults remember being told by their parents to just tell the bullies, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me,” and to ignore those who would mock them. Today, bullying takes place in cyberspace; an intangible arena that is public, anonymous, permanent, and ever-present. Without having to face their victims in person and relying on the ability to hide their identity, bullies are often less empathetic towards their victims, typing messages that are more vicious than they would ever say in person. And since these messages are all online, there is no limit to where or when bullying can take place. Children and teenagers connect to their world through their cell phones and essentially carry their bullies with them everywhere they go.

What has been done to address this issue?

School officials tend to be the first to find out about bullying incidents, since the school is often the first place parents contact to seek an intervention when their children tell them about being bullied. New Jersey is a leader in legislation addressing harassment, intimidation, and bullying, also known as “HIB.” The robust NJ statute outlines the procedures for school officials to follow when a HIB incident is reported in a way that takes bullying seriously and doesn’t minimize the issue. Other schools across the country are following suit, creating laws ensuring that bullying incidents are properly handled. However, in New Jersey as well as other states, there is a lot of information that must be collected in order to meet the requirements for a HIB incident report. This can be a tedious process and requires that students report incidents in full to school faculty which may place a large burden on the victims and witnesses of bullying.

Getting to the heart of the matter

Reports of behavior incidents are important to record, and then confirmed for accuracy. Anything that can be done to deter and reduce this behavior is very important, but some cyberbullying continues to happen and proper action is needed. HIB paperwork can be cumbersome to complete, but its effects reach far beyond addressing singular incidents of bullying. Children who are victims of cyberbullying are at increased risk of:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • school phobia
  • truancy
  • low self-esteem
  • self-harm
  • suicidal ideation and attempts

Of the youth that share cyberbullying stories with me, each one of them has also reported at least two of the bullet points listed above and almost 30% of these youth have met the diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder.

Victims aren’t the only ones who suffer, though. Those who bully others often exhibit these mental health risks as well and may even be victims themselves.

Troublingly, many children who bully others have a history of significantly stressful or traumatic life events. There are already a limited number of therapists who treat children and teenagers, and all too often these children fall through the cracks, not receiving sufficient services or care to address these emotional challenges. HIB reports are one way identify those children who are most at risk for emotional or behavioral challenges. HIB reporting offers the opportunity to address the underlying issues of bullying rather than being purely punitive or reactive. By identifying both the victims and bullies, schools and parents can work together to link students with professional counselors who can assess mental health risks and help children and teens develop coping skills to respond to bullying and build resilience against future stresses.

And in New Jersey at least, strong HIB regulations seem to have meaningful impact. For the most recent one year period available on a national level, 2015, the rate of suicide in New Jersey for youth age 10-24 remains lower (5.5 per 100,000) than the national rate (9.2 per 100,000). Still, suicide remains the third leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24 in New Jersey.

(NEW JERSEY YOUTH SUICIDE REPORT, www.nj.gov, New Jersey Dept of Children and Families)

The bottom line – the effects of bullying can last years beyond childhood and adolescence. It is imperative that schools and parents work together to make addressing the underlying issues of bullying a priority.

I believe tools like STOPit, which allow for anonymous reporting and make (confirmed only) HIB reporting easier and more efficient enables parents and officials to focus on what is really important: the health and safety of their students. When at-risk children are identified as either bullies or victims, schools and parents are given the opportunity to connect these children with therapeutic counseling services and break the cycle of bullying.

Dr. Jenna Meyerberg is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of New Jersey and specializes in working with children, adolescents, and families. She is the owner of Meyerberg Counseling, LLC in Parlin, NJ and a therapist at Developing Wellness Therapy Group, LLC in Brick, NJ. Learn more at: http://bit.ly/2zg6Glr.

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Amanda Todd’s Life Was Lost To Cyberbullying. Today, Many Find Hope Thanks To The Legacy and Light She Left Behind.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the United States. As one way of recognizing the importance of anti-bullying efforts everywhere, we are presenting a two-part series examining STOPit’s genesis as an anti-bullying technology solution.

This post honors Amanda Todd. Her life and the circumstances of her death were the inspiration behind why STOPit’s company founder, Todd Schobel, founded the anonymous reporting app and incident management solution.

Amanda Todd

The girl’s hands trembled as she flipped through a stack of notecards. With a camera trained on her from the nose down — keeping a viewer’s full focus on the hand-written words in black marker, rather than her face – she slowly recounted an experience that had turned her life upside down and driven her to depression.

Fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd always loved the camera, and like a fellow Canadian teen named Justin Bieber, had a passion for sharing her music with the world on YouTube. Like many her age, she also explored the online frontier of chat rooms and livestream conversations. But one night, she made a teenage mistake of sharing intimate images of herself with a male chatting with her online. The person on the other end of the camera took a screenshot and attempted to blackmail her to do more.

She refused his demands, and the image was disseminated widely and repeatedly to her family, her classmates and beyond. Contacting the police, the passage of time — even switching to different schools — none of this helped stem the onslaught of cyberbullying that followed.

A month after sharing her story through flashcards in a heart wrenching video on YouTube, Amanda took her own life.

In the wake of her death, the video went viral around the world. But her story doesn’t end there. In fact, thanks to Amanda’s mother, Carol Todd, Amanda continues to have a positive impact, still bringing her own creative, inspiring spark into countless lives.

The Amanda Todd Legacy Society

Today, Amanda’s life — all of it — serves as a powerful warning to today’s young people and parents about the catastrophic seriousness of relentless bullying and harassment and a poignant plea to would-be cyberbullies to consider the ramifications of their actions. But, just as important, her life is inspiring thousands of others to take positive action against bullying and to pursue better mental health and wellness.

“She left a legacy behind,” said Carol. “Her YouTube video has become iconic. It’s been viewed 49 million times, spurred presentations, documentaries, and brought communities together around fighting bullying, including cyberbullying. When I travel abroad for speaking presentations, many know of the story of Amanda Todd, which is overwhelming.”

Amanda’s story continues to inspire HOPE FOR CHANGE in all of us. For kids in the U.S. and Canada. For Carol, who launched the Amanda Todd Legacy Society to raise awareness of cyber abuse. And to a commuter named Todd Schobel, who was so moved by a story he heard on the radio about Amanda that he created an anonymous reporting app called STOPit.

In the course of her advocacy work for the Society, Carol frequently hears stories about how Amanda has inspired people to act. “I received an email this morning from a middle-schooler mum. Her child has always had empathy for the kids who sit alone and are bullied,” said Todd in a recent interview. “This mum told me that her son stepped in to stop a bullying incident in the lunch room and sat with the boy, helped him clean up. The other boy said to him, ‘Thank you for helping. Thank you for coming to my side, no one has ever done that.’ It’s stories like this that Amanda’s story inspires people to share; inspires them to take action.”

Todd continued, “The son went home to his mum and asked her to speak to the school principal and take action, which he did. Then the local police found out and the mum told me they are presenting her son with a coin to acknowledge his actions.”

Other stories like this flood her email, everyday. Like the one from the father that walked from Pennsylvania to Santa Monica. He wrote Carol that he needed to do something positive to prove to his daughter that people can do good, positive things. “Your daughter’s story has affected me,” he wrote Todd, “and I want to do something positive to make a difference in my kid’s and other kid’s lives.”

In one, widely reported example, composer Jocelyn Morlock wrote a song called “My Name Is Amanda Todd,” which went on to garner a Juno Award, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys. During the nationally televised awards gala, Morlock brought Carol with her on stage, turned to her and told her, “You are my hero.”

Amanda’s Legacy

Amanda died on Oct. 10, which is also, coincidentally, recognized as World Mental Health Day. Each year, the Amanda Todd Legacy Society encourages cities, businesses, schools, landmarks and people to #LightUpPurple to promote awareness of mental health and Amanda’s story. To further its mission of education, bullying prevention, positive social change and mental health and wellness, The Society partners closely with various corporate partners to effect even greater impact — partners like Telus, a Canadian telecom company that funds TELUS Wise, a free educational program that teaches Canadians of all ages about managing their privacy, security and reputation online.

Learn More. Do More.

To read more about the Amanda Todd Legacy Society, get involved in the mission and see the Society’s recommended resources for bullying, cyberbullying, mental health and more, click here.

And if you live in the United States and you or someone you know is being harassed and bullied in school, online — anywhere — help is available.

With special thanks to Carol Todd for her help with this piece, and most especially for her work to help build a safer, kinder world for all of us.

How The Tragic Story of One 15 Year Old During National Bullying Prevention Month Galvanized The Creation of An Anonymous Reporting App Now Helping Thousands

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. As one way of recognizing the importance of anti-bullying efforts everywhere, we are presenting a two-part series examining STOPit’s genesis as an anti-bullying solution.

This article recounts company founder Todd Schobel’s inspiration for the technology.

Todd Schobel was driving home from work on Oct. 10, 2012 – the heart of National Bullying Prevention Month — when a story on the radio changed his life forever. It was the story of Amanda Todd, a victim of online predation and the cruel and relentless taunting by her peers. Amanda took her own life at just 15 years old.

Amanda had shared her story via flashcards in a YouTube video that caught the world’s attention. In it, she told of a male who coerced her into sharing intimate photos on a webcam. He then shared an image of her widely, leading to merciless cyberbullying by her peers.

“I can never get that photo back,” Amanda wrote on one of the cards. “It’s out there forever.” The realization was too heavy for her to bear.

“I believed the key to helping people like Amanda was to empower them to use the same technology that was inflicting hurt to ask for help,” Schobel said. “In that moment, STOPit was born.”

Schobel’s vision for STOPit began as an anonymous app to report cyberbullying by empowering people young and old, chiefly in school environments, to make a difference. It has since grown into something far more – a technology that is helping aid police investigationsthwart workplace sexual harassmentmitigate toxic work environments, among many other uses.

“I am very proud to say the impact has been life-changing for students, communities and workplaces across the country,” Schobel said. “The STOPit platform was created to give everyone a voice to affect change in every facet of our lives to create safer places for all of us to learn, work and live. From the daunting challenges we face in our schools and communities to what we see in the workplace regarding sexual harassment and discrimination, I recognize just how powerful someone’s voice can be to affect real change.”

Since that fateful day six years ago, more than 3,000 schools in over 40 states have adopted STOPit. The system was used to field nearly 30,000 reports in the 2017-18 school year alone, with incidents ranging from harassment to mental health concerns to suicidal ideation.

“I am so pleased with the progress we have made across the world transforming the way people report and prevent all forms of illegal and inappropriate conduct,” Schobel said. “In thousands of locations around the globe, STOPit has become a catalyst for cultural transformation, positively impacting behaviors for the betterment of society.”

“I look forward to a world where you aren’t bullied in school, aren’t humiliated in college, aren’t harassed at work, treated with dignity as you grow old, and live your life in safe communities where citizens know that when they see something, they can say something without fear.”

More Resources

For more information on bullying and bullying prevention, including steps you can take to stop abuse in your schools or community, visit:

The Amanda Todd Legacy

Carol Todd, mother of Amanda Todd, launched the Amanda Todd Legacy Society to honor her daughter’s life and build a lasting legacy of hope and help. The organization’s work includes education, advocacy and financial assistance for programs to empower youth, parents, educators, and community leaders who are taking positive action to prevent bullying and build mental health resilience.

Schools Are Leveraging Grant Funds to Launch Anonymous Reporting Systems. Here’s How One State Did It.

A superintendent in Wisconsin wept following a cybersafety assembly held to launch STOPit in his school district. His community was grieving after a student from a neighboring district committed suicide a few days earlier. Students approached the superintendent after the assembly and shared the text messages they’d received from the distraught student just before his suicide, including messages with photos showing the weapon he intended to use. The students did their best to get the student to choose life – but they didn’t know what else to do. If the anonymous reporting app had been available just days earlier, they could have used it – a move that may have saved a life.

“[The Superintendent] was broken-hearted,” said Kerrie Ackerson, Development and Innovation Specialist for Wisconsin Cooperative Educational Service Agency 10 (CESA 10). “He just wished that he had STOPit a week earlier. He said, ‘I don’t care what I’m paying for this, we need this. I will never put my kids in a position again where they have something like those texts and don’t know what to do with them – then they have to live with that outcome on their heart.”

Ackerson is working to ensure that the chances of this scenario repeating are slimmer. CESA 10 is one of a dozen organizations in Wisconsin that functions as a co-op for public schools, pooling resources and making them available to individual schools to save money and create efficiencies. The organization recently assisted nearly 100 districts in accessing funds from the state’s Department of Justice to improve safety at schools across Wisconsin.

Successful applicants were required to initially focus on hardening their schools by adding bullet resistant window film, door locks and other infrastructure upgrades. Any remaining funds could be used at their discretion.

“We encouraged them to find a balance of the hardening items and then some softer items, like mental health first aid training for teachers and other things that fell on the preventative end of the spectrum,” Ackerson said. “STOPit fit nicely there.”

On behalf of districts, CESA 10 negotiated a deal with STOPit for a bundle including its anonymous reporting app,its 24-hour incident monitoring service, and assistance organizing cybersafety assemblies. The arrangement helped make the service affordable for Wisconsin’s smaller rural districts.

Available Funds

While every state has its own distinct funding streams, Ackerson points to a few sources that could potentially finance anonymous reporting systems in schools, anywhere. Among them:

  • Title IVa: This federal funding pool promotes activities that “support safe and healthy students,” and Ackerson said that definition is flexible. It is distributed to each state as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act and distributed via formula. This fund was nearly tripled in 2018 and increased a bit more in 2019.
  • Stop School Violence Act Grants: The latest federal budget provides $95 million in funding in 2019. It’s a small pot with lots of competition, but the legislation specifically mentions the development and operation of anonymous reporting systems as a measure for which schools can receive funding.
  • Philanthropy: Ackerson encourages schools to explore partnering with philanthropic organizations for solutions like STOPit. This could also include donors and business leaders at the regional/local level who have a record of investing in their communities.

“Don’t overlook philanthropy when you’re thinking about school safety,” she said. “Most very philanthropic individuals have children; they went to school and they understand why school safety matters. Additionally, STOPit has such a large impact at such a low price point that it is very manageable and valuable to local philanthropists be they individuals or businesses.”

Promoting Strengths to Grantors

CESA 10 researched nearly a dozen tiplines and anonymous reporting apps before choosing STOPit. The features that set it apart was its 24-hour monitoring service and customer satisfaction. Many schools don’t have the resources to watch for reports outside of school hours, and the evaluation team was not comfortable with the idea that an urgent message could be sent in the middle of the night and go unseen. After a reference check with other STOPit users garnered positive feedback, CESA 10 committed to the system, negotiated an agreement, and began offering it to schools.

When writing grants for anonymous reporting tools, Ackerson recommends that schools be specific about how anonymous reporting is part of a balanced, holistic approach to addressing school safety. She said grantors also appreciate that tools like STOPit are especially effective when deployed as a local solution, with the system being run in-house, not outsourced to an unaffiliated vendor or police agency. Applicants should also call attention to the demonstrated effectiveness of anonymous reporting to save lives and curb crime in a cost-effective way.

Finally, Ackerson said that a powerful selling point for grant reviewers is that mobile device-based solutions are unquestionably the best way to tap into younger generations.

“Most people can envision kids walking around staring at their phone. Most people can envision kids seeing something in the hallway, like a fight, and recording it on their phone,” Ackerson said. “We want to meet kids where they’re at. And where they’re at, like it or not, is on their hand-held devices.”

To speak with a specialist about implementing the STOPit anonymous reporting solution in your school, call us today.

The Costume We Can’t Always See: Neuroscience Proves That Adolescents Are Most At-Risk For Long-Term Consequences of Bullying & Abuse

Even those of us who don’t remember typewriter ribbon and mobile phone deals that included free night and weekend minutes can probably summon up a mental picture of the ineffable James Dean, astride his motorcycle like he owns the world in Rebel Without a Cause, or maybe even hum a few bars of Don’t You Forget About Me from The Breakfast Club. The focus in both these iconic productions rests squarely on the fearless, oftentimes reckless and always passionate energy of their adolescent heroes.

Teenagers and their tumultuous coming-of-age stories are represented throughout history in all art forms all over the world, and for good reason — adolescence is universally recognized as a time during human development of great promise…as well as great consequence.

Few people understand that dichotomy as well as Dr. Jennifer Fraser, PhD, an expert in applied neuroscience who is changing the way bullying is perceived, understood, and treated. Neuroscience is proving the dramatic, and deeply troubling, psychopathological effects that bullying has on the developing brain, and Fraser is leveraging this growing body of research to speak directly to the adults who she feels are most able to do something positive to stop the bullying epidemic and help young brains heal.

“My work focuses on adults, on training adults who are in frequent contact with or who work with adolescents — educators, coaches, medical staff, parents, law enforcement,” she said recently in an interview with STOPit’s CRO, Neil Hooper. “They all need to know that their words and behavior have a tremendous emotional impact on these radically developing brains — even more than with younger children,” she said.

All In The Head: The Real Damage Of Humiliating, Abusive Words On The Adolescent Brain

The teenage years are a time of intensive growth in brain development — paralleling that of the toddler years– and data suggests that the experience of chronic victimization during adolescence induces psychopathological deviations from normal brain development. In other words, a physical change to the brain — literally forming scar tissue, causing shrinkages and other deformities that could change the way these future adults will learn, think and behave. “The fact is that chronic bullying, or worse emotional abuse done by adult, leaves an indelible imprint because it affects hormones, reduces connectivity in the brain, and sabotages new neurons’ growth,” said Fraser.

Neurological studies have found that persistent bullying in high school is not only emotionally traumatizing, it also causes real and lasting damage to the developing young brain. In fact, MRIs show that the brain’s pain response to exclusion and taunting is remarkably similar to its reaction when the body is physically hit or burned.

recent European study that was published in Molecular Psychiatry on teenage brain development and mental health followed 682 young people between the ages of 14 and 19, and tallied 36 in total who reported experiencing chronic bullying during these years. When the researchers compared the excessively bullied participants to those who had experienced less intense bullying, certain sections of the brains of the bullied participants appeared to have actually shrunk in size – a change similar to adults who have experienced severe early life physical stress, such as child abuse.

“I try to explain to them (adults) how we’ve created this bullying culture with our children; in sports, in the performing arts; in academic competition, by modeling our own, shaming, aggressive behavior, and then we turn around in school assemblies and TV spots and tell them not to do it. That’s obviously not working. Too often, these changes – these scars – are programming their brains to perpetuate the abuse and trauma they experienced on others.”

In one of many examples Fraser cites to prove her point, the world renowned educator points to the case of Rutgers University basketball coach, Mike Rice, fired for relentlessly bullying kids on his team; hurling insults, questioning their loyalty, sexual identity and abilities. One student in particular repeatedly felt the lash of the coach’s taunts, laced with homophobic slurs and rants, but it took repeated reports by Assistant Coach, Eric Murdock and finally his handing over of a video of Rice’s abuse to ESPN in order to protect the student-athletes.

“This bullying culture is so deeply embedded in our society, even the most obvious examples are too often shrugged off as part of growing up, perverse rites of passage necessary to “toughen up” children for successful adulthood and motivate them to push past pain to “be their best”. This awful behavior is normalised and dismissed — but it’s not normal behavior,” she said emphatically. “None of this makes any child stronger, smarter, more artistic, or more athletic. It just harms his or her brain, and it might be permanent,” Fraser said.

Leveraging Neuroscience and Social-Emotional Learning to Change Culture

But as with every challenge, there are solutions — if we are willing to find them and determined enough to use them.

In her previous book, Teaching Bullies and her forthcoming book “The Bullied Brain: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Brain Scars and How To Heal Them”, Fraser presents a realistic approach to reversing the epidemic of bullying. In this book and in her work as an educator and consultant, Fraser emphasises the importance of SEL, or social-emotional learning, as well as the need to flip-the-script when it comes to reporting bullying and harassment.

“Social-emotional learning — including content and activities that emphasize cooperation, strengths-based motivation and empathy — is one of our greatest, underutilized tools in remaking our culture,” she said. “If we adults make SEL ubiquitous in all disciplines, activities and at all ages — we’ll be pushing a new norm and make bullying a marginalized behavior.”

One component of social-emotional learning is practicing courage — including the courage to speak up for someone in trouble. Fraser believes that every organization should provide an anonymous reporting tool to everyone in that organization, and that there is as much value in a manager or staff member’s ability to report bullying and harassment as there is in empowering a victim to reach out for help.

“In the example of Mike Rice at Rutgers,” Fraser said, “there were several adults – professionals who were mid-level managers or staff who were witnesses and wanted to speak out, but they felt powerless or afraid to go public with their concerns. Tools like the STOPit Solutions reporting app could have made all the difference in this case by empowering both the victims and the adult bystanders to speak up and demand early intervention and resolution.”

Fraser and like-minded colleagues at STOPit are forming strategic partnerships across the globe to bring together the research, tools and leadership critical to understanding the problems and to implementing solutions. Fraser is helping STOPit build a robust library of SEL content, grounded in positive psychology and neuroscience, that organizations can choose to share with their communities — content that directly addresses their own, distinct needs and concerns. STOPit is helping Fraser and others share stories showing how those who report bullying and harassment are heroes — not snitches — and demonstrate how upstanders save lives and protect what’s best in an organization’s culture.

In Fraser’s newly completed online course End Bullying and Abuse Academy, she foregrounds the STOPit reporting app as one of her eight “Rs.” Her eight courses analyze how organizations fail to use SEL and reporting as an early-warning system to keep administrators aware of whether their culture is healthy or showing signs of toxicity. Fraser’s courses teach that at the heart of a healthy system is SEL knowledge, neuroscientific insights and an effective reporting system.

“We have the brain power to make a paradigm shift from the passive acceptance of bullying and abuse to actively practicing empathy and compassion,” said Fraser. “Your corporation, business, schools or sports organization will be more successful once you make that shift. That’s not opinion. It’s grounded in extensive neuroscientific research.”

Call STOPit now to learn more about how communities and school districts are using the innovative app to build resiliency, safety, and deliver mental health first aid to individuals and organizations around the world.

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